Clive Cussler has prevailed in one aspect of his protracted suit against Philip Anschutz’s Crusader Entertainment over the movie adaptation of his book “Sahara,” as a California appeals court overturned a $5 million breach-of-contract judgment against the author.

But the state Court of Appeal, in a ruling issued Wednesday, denied Cussler’s claim for $8.5 million he says was due him. And it also reversed a trial court’s ruling that Crusader was entitled to recover legal costs, as Cussler had been at one point ordered to pay almost $14 million in legal fees. Instead, the question of who is the ultimate victor, and who then will bear the costs, is being left to a trial court.

The 2005 movie was a flop, but it had at one point been seen as a possible franchise for Crusader. Although Cussler and Crusader signed a contract spelling out options for a second and third pic, the author and Crusader execs almost immediately clashed over the screenplay for the first film. But the appeals court noted that Cussler was given the right to approve screenplays “in his sole and absolute discretion,” and at one point became so frustrated that he started to write his own versions and lobby Crusader to make his adaptation.

A trial court ruled in favor of Crusader in 2008. But the appellate court disregarded Crusader’s claim for damages over Cussler’s negative statements about the project.